Pacific Swallow – calls

posted in: birds, Vocalisation | 0

I was watching a pair of Pacific Swallows (Hirundo tahitica javanica) that I know fairly well. They were hawking insects, using a stationary ceiling fan as a vantage position, and calling out intermittently. Most calls were soft ‘wep’ or ‘kwek’ (Wells 2007) that needed a good mike to pick up. I decided to try a closer approach for images and one bird gave out a ‘steam-whistle’ call (Wells 2007) and they flew off. This call appeared to be a warning call. I tested this when they returned shortly and played it back; they immediately flew off. Wells says this ‘steam-whistle’ call is used to signal the presence of a predator near nest. A recording of calls is found here:

The first few calls are contact calls (soft ‘wep’ or ‘kwek’ (above) and the recording ends with a ‘steam-whistle’ call (below).

Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr) – Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Habitat: Urban environment

Date: 23rd January 2020

Equipment: Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR, handheld with Rode VideoMic Pro Plus Shotgun Microphone

Lace monitor, Varanus varius

posted in: Amphibians-Reptiles, Lace monitor | 0

Family: Varanidae

The lace monitor, Varanus varius, is native to Australia and found in Queensland, down to New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Their closest relative is the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis of Indonesia).  They are also known as tree goanna or lacy. These lizards can reach 2 m in length. They are solitary, diurnal creatures and are active from September to May.

Their diet comprises insects, small mammals, birds, eggs, reptiles, snakes and carrions. They can be found in hollow logs, in tree branches or under logs. Like snakes, they flick their forked tongues to taste the air while hunting. These lizards congregate around picnic sites, camp sites and rubbish tips to scavenge.  Chicken coops in farms are also their favourite targets. They are apex predators and only fall prey to crocodiles or dingoes. Australian aboriginal peoples catch monitors which descend from trees to prepare traditional foods. Ground lizards are avoided as the meat may taste unpleasant after feeding on carrions.

Females lay their eggs in termite mounds and return to the site to release the new hatchlings by digging the termite mounds with  sharp claws.

John Fowler’s post  on this monitor lizard is very informative and illuminating to readers.

Wong Kais encountered a lacy monitor in Healesville Sanctuary on 29 October 2015.

Photo 1 by Wong Kais. The beautiful yellowish spots that form bands against a dark grey background. Note the sharp claws. Healesville Sanctuary 29 October 2015


Photo 2 by Wong Kais. The lacy monitor scrambling off the path. The limbs are held out sideways and the body is lifted off the ground. Healesville Sanctuary 29 October 2015.


Photo 3 by Wong Kais. 29 October 2015. A lacy scuttlling towards a hollow under a plank. Healesville Sanctuary.


Photo 4 by Wong Kais. The truck driver stopped his truck and waited patiently for the lacy to cross the path safely. Healesville Sanctuary. 29 October 2015.


Video 1 by Wong Kais. Healesville Sanctuary 29 October 2015.


In Singapore, Varanus salvator, the Asian Water Monitor Lizard, is quite similar to the Varanus varius in many ways.  View the two videos below to look for similarities and differences between the two species of varanids.

Video 2 by Wong Kais. Jurong Lake Gardens, Singapore. 4 February 2022.

Video 3 by Wong Kais. Jurong Lake Gardens, Singapore. 4 February 2022.

The Varanus salvator, a monitor lizard found in Singapore has been documented feeding on a macaque and on a red-eared slider



  1. Wildlife of Australia by Iain Campbell and Sam Woods © 2013
  2. Australian Wildlife by Leonard Cronin © 2007


Article by Teo Lee Wei

Stripe-throated Bulbul at various locations

posted in: birds, Miscellaneous | 0

#1 Stripe-throated Bulbul Stripe-throated Bulbul (Pycnonotus finlaysoni finlaysoni) – above.

Location: Taiping, Perak, Malaysia

Habitat: 500-600 meter ASL, primary jungle

Date: 18th February 2019

#2 Stripe-throated Bulbul Pycnonotus finlaysoni finlaysoni – above.

Location: Taiping, Perak, Malaysia

Habitat: 500-600 meter ASL, primary jungle

Date: 18th February 2019

#3 Stripe-throated Bulbul Pycnonotus finlaysoni finlaysoni – above.

Location: Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Habitat: Limestone outcroppings at outskirts of the city with secondary growthAmar

Date: 4th October 2018

#4 A family group of 3 Stripe-throated Bulbul feeding on Lantana camara (Big-Sage or Wild-Sage) fruit. A common plant for many birds to feed on.  Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis musicus) were also there feeding at the same time. One of the birds is in tail-moult. One other bird some moulting in the face.


Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr) – Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD, handheld with Rode VideoMic Pro Plus Shotgun Microphone


Pheasant-tailed Jacana – feeding behaviour

posted in: birds, Feeding strategy | 0

Post 1.

Some colleagues mentioned a group of Pheasant-tailed Jacana (Hydrophasianus chirurgus) at a wetlands site (at least 5 birds present) and I visited to observe feeding behaviour. One common feeding method is to swim in open water and pick prey from the water surface, especially from floating vegetation; what is actually taken is uncertain.

Post 2.

Most sources say their diet consists of insects, molluscs, other invertebrates. I observed them for a 1.5 hours and saw (with video) many such feeding episodes but all I could see taken (even with video grab images) was plant material – the opinion is that aquatic vegetation is ingested accidentally/incidentally while feeding on animal prey (see HBW 2020).

Post 3.

It is possible that they feed on a large number of small insects and invertebrates on the water surface. I saw some competitive feeding between the birds (defending their stretch of water) but this was not common; they could also feed communally. Post 2 and 3 show some feeding activity. A video of feeding behaviour is here:

Jenni, D.A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Pheasant-tailed Jacana (Hydrophasianus chirurgus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.


Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr) – Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Location: Wetlands, Perak, Malaysia

Habitat: Extensive ex-tin mining area with pond/lakes, wetlands

Date: 17th February 2020

Equipment: Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR, handheld with Rode VideoMic Pro Plus Shotgun Microphone


Otters enjoy facilities at Reflections at Keppel Bay Condominium

posted in: otters | 0

The video below by CL Ching was taken on 7 April 2022 at Reflections Condominium at Keppel Bay, Singapore.

The video captured the moment when a group of five smooth-coated otters, Lutrogale perspicillata, frollicked in the swimming pool and got curious about the swimming goggles and foam float. The otters were not afraid of the humans chatting by the side of the pool.


Read this advisory by Nparks which educates the public on otter encounters.

This post by Washington Post describes the comeback of the critically endangered otters in Singapore.

The following post about a  family of otters inflicting injury on a monitor lizard showcases the swift and cooperative response of these wild animals  

Read this post that conveys the mood and attitude of the public towards the otters’ presence in unexpected places.   relates the disappearance and then the successful re-establishment of the otters in Singapore.


BESGroup thanks CL Ching for her generosity in sharing her video with our readers.

Striped Nomia (Nomia strigata) with dusting of pollens

posted in: Arthropod, Pearly-banded bee | 0

A Striped Nomia (Nomia strigata) was spotted at Coney Island on 10 April 2022 by Soh Kam Yung. It is a soil nesting bee that visits the flowers of cultivated shrubs, including brinjals and chillies. This bee has been dusted with pollen on its head and back.

On iNaturalist [ ]

A Nomia strigata dusted with pollens. Photo by Soh Kam Yung.

Family                           : Halictidae

Interesting snippets      : Also known as Pearly-banded bee and is solitary in behaviour.  Nests underground solitarily. Collects nectar while buzzing loudly. Commonly seen in Singapore parks and gardens.

Wood Sandpiper – swimming

posted in: birds, Miscellaneous | 0

The Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola) is known to be a good swimmer.


Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr) – Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Location: Perak, Malaysia

Habitat: Wetlands, Padi Fields

Date: 3rd December 2019

Equipment: Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR, handheld with Rode VideoMic Pro Plus Shotgun Microphone


Mangrove Jewel bug, Calliphara nobilis

posted in: Arthropod, Mangrove Jewel Bugs | 0

Soh Kam Yung spotted a group of Mangrove Jewel Bugs (Calliphara nobilis) spotted at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on 17 April 2022. He usually sees individuals, so it was a surprise to see a group for once.

On iNaturalist [ ]

Photo by Soh Kam Yung. A cluster of adult Calliphara nobilis, the mangrove jewel bug.


Family                       :      Scutelleridae

Interesing snippets   :      Also known as mangrove shield bug or mangrove stink bug. Feed on leaves and so is described as phytophagous. They are coloured to warn would-be predators of their unpalatability and this is known as aposematically coloured. They are capable of secreting irritating fluids formed by sequestering toxins obtained from plants they have fed on.

Black-capped kingfisher with centipede in beak

Centipedes are present in home gardens, and also in Oil Palm estate, Selangor state of Malaysia.   Encik Mohamed Shah shared a photograph of a Black-capped kingfisher (Halcyon pileata) with a dead soil centipede in its beak. These kingfishers have been noted to feed on fish, lizards, frogs and large insects. Large preys are smacked against hard surfaces to kill them.

Photo courtesy of Mohamed Shah, Selangor, Malaysia. Note the black head and beautiful blue feathers on its back and wings. The blue feathers are sought after for (human) female ornamental adornments. April 2022.


   BESGroup thanks Lee Soo Ann of Klang, Selangor and Mohamed Shah of Selangor for sharing this event with our readers.

Black-capped Babbler – Do birds of one species eat the faecal sacs of another species?

posted in: birds, Miscellaneous | 0

I was watching some Short-tailed Babblers (Pellorneum malaccense) on 28th April 2022 at a mixed primary-secondary forest location at the outskirts of Ipoh when this Black-capped Babbler (Pellorneum capistratum nigrocapitatum) walked out of the undergrowth. What was unexpected was the faecal sac it was carrying. I am used to nesting birds either eating the faecal sac of their juveniles or disposing of it some distance away from the nest. But this bird’s behaviour (and demeanour) appeared to be purposefully taking the faecal sac somewhere rather than removing or disposing of it. The bird was surprised to see me but after a brief pause, it carried on its way and disappeared into the undergrowth further down, still carrying the faecal sac.

I could just be mistaken and the bird is just nesting and this is the ‘conventional’ faecal sac removal. But it got me thinking – do birds of one species eat the faecal sacs of another species? Do birds of one species collect faecal sacs of another species and feed them to their offspring? Especially as we know that the faecal sacs of younger juveniles contain undigested food that may be nutritious.

There are reports of brood parasites like the Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater), which do not care for their own offspring, eating the faecal sacs of nestlings of their host species (Stake, Cavanagh 2001).

I would appreciate any opinions.


Stake, M. M.; Cavanagh, P. M. (2001). “Removal of Host Nestlings and Fecal Sacs by Brown-headed Cowbirds”. The Wilson Bulletin. 113 (4): 456–459.[0456:ROHNAF]2.0.CO;2.short


Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS – Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

26 Responses

  1. kris

    I just found a young dollarbird in the garden.. It seems to have left the nest too early and cannot fly yet. How am i to keep and feed it for a few days untill it can fly.???

  2. Iwan

    We have a small pond in our garden surrounded by trees and steep bedrock. The other day we saw a heron flying over and attempting to land – I guess to try to eat our small stock of fish. We managed to frighten it away before it landed, and have since installed trip wires around the pond in order to dissuade the bird. The amount of shelter around the pond means that a heron would have to land practically vertically. Does anyone know whether these birds have the agility to hover and land in this way, or do they always need a “glidepath” in order to land successfully?

  3. Khng Eu Meng

    Today, at the former Bidadari Cemetery, there was a buzz about a sighting of a Grey Nightjar (Caprimulgus jotaka). I heard some birders say this nightjar isn’t commonly seen in Singapore. After some hunting, we spotted it asleep on a tree branch, some 15 m above ground. This was rather interesting as my previous encounters with nightjars have been on either terra firma or on low branches.

    Is this perching so high up the tree normal or is it unusual? I have posted a photo of it on my Facebook Timeline:

  4. Jess

    Bird Sanctuary At Former Bidadari Cementry

    1)Which is the best spot in Bidadari cemetery for bird watch?

    2)Where this bird usually resident at?

    3)What are some of the rare bird species that can be found at Bidadari?

    4)Where is the particular hot spot for the hornbills, eagles, kingfishers and some of the rare migratory bird?

    5)Which part of Bidadari are richest in it wildlife?

    6)Can you name me the 59 migratory bird species found?

  5. YC

    Why not search the website using the word ‘Bidadari’ to obtain the information you need. There should be sufficient info in past postings to satisfy you.

  6. Firdaus Razak

    Hai, I just want to ask did anybody had an experience bring bird from oversea via MasKargo? Did the bird will stress at high altitude?

  7. Chung Wah

    Hi, I am new to bird photography! Could anyone advise a good pair of binoculars to get for this hobby?

  8. Geam Liang

    I ‘acquired’ a female Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot 5 days ago – was in a public place when the bird flew overhead hit the wall and dropped right in front of me dazed. I picked it up, it appeared unhurt but could not sustain it’s flight. I have since constructed a fairly large ‘cage’ for it, about 4ft x 2fx x 2ft and placed it there last night. I temporarily placed her in a normal bird cage until I had completed the build.
    From what I have read up, it’s a fruit, seed and insect feeder and also nectar, flower buds. It’s doing as well as it can on bananas, papaya, jack-fruit (didn’t touch the grape) and seeds (black and white sunflower and other smaller ones). It loves to bathe so I’ve gotten it a tray and from what I read it’s important to keep things clean as it easily succumbs to infection.
    Does anyone else have any useful experience and sharing on it’s upkeep? I suspect this bird is an escapee – as far as I can read up, it’s not common, if at all, found in Georgetown, Penang where I am. I’m also not optimistic that it can survive if I were to set it free – assuming it can sustain it’s flight and not go crashing down and if there were dogs/cats around that would be the end of it.
    I can attach some pictures but not sure how to do this…

  9. Lee Chiu San

    The blue-crowned hanging parrot, even though very closely related to the lovebirds, is a nectar feeder. You would raise it the way you raise a lorikeet – which is a messy process. And because you are mixing batches of food for just one little bird, whereas I used to do it for about half a dozen pigeon-sized lorikeets each morning, I don’t know how you are going to get the portions down to manageable sizes. Anyway, here goes, with my recipe for feeding big lories. You can adjust the proportions down accordingly for your little bird.

    The staple diet would be a couple of slices of soft fruit (papaya, apple, grapes, even though I am surprised that you said the bird would not eat any) and a mixture of cooked rice sweetened with nectar mix.

    How to make nectar mix? Go to a pharmacy and get a can of food for invalids or infants. I use Complan, but I am sure any good baby formula would do. I usually make up enough to fill a beer mug, but there is no way you need that amount for a day’s feeding. If in doubt, make the mixture thinner, not thicker. Birds cannot digest baby formula that is too thick. If it is too thin, they simply have to consume more to get the required amount of energy. Then to this mug, add half a teaspoonful of rose syrup. Also stir in about a cup of cooked rice, well mashed up.

    In the case of your bird, I suggest that you pour this lot into an ice-cube tray, freeze the mixture, and defrost one cube to feed it each day.

    Now, you said that this bird eats sunflower seeds. This is most unusual for a blue-crowned hanging parrot. Are you sure that this is actually the species you have? Could it be possible that you have actually got a pet lovebird that escaped? There are so many different artificially-created breeds of lovebirds in so many colours that you might have been mistaken.

    If you actually have a lovebird, feeding is much simpler. Just go to the nearest pet shop, buy a packet of budgerigar or cockatiel seed of a reputable international brand, and offer it to the bird. You can supplement this with a couple of slices of fruit each day, and that will be all. Plus of course fresh water and a piece of cuttlefish bone to nibble on.

  10. Lee Chiu San

    About nectar feeding birds. I forgot to add that feeding nectar is messy, and it goes rancid very quickly in our tropical weather. Feeding containers have to be removed and thoroughly cleaned at the end of each day. The birds also splatter the mixture and wipe their beaks on perches and the bars of the cage. All my lories and lorikeets used to be housed in outdoor aviaries which were hosed down daily.

    If Geam Liang does not think the bird will survive if released, I really hope that it is a case of mistaken identity, and that you have a lovebird, rather than a blue-crowned hanging parrot. In our part of the world, all available lovebirds are domestically bred, take to captivity readily, and are easy to feed with commercially available seed mixtures. Yes, and being domestic pets, they would not survive if released.

  11. Geam Liang

    Thank you Chiu San for your inputs. Thus far, bananas and papayas work well. I’m not sure why it did not take to grapes – will try again. Am I supposed to peel it? I didn’t the last time, basically skewered a couple of grapes to a satay stick and positioned it as I did for the sliced and skinned papaya and peeled bananas.
    I have yet to try rice and certainly not nectar but will try out your concoction – have half a mind to go to a pet shop to see if they carry nectar for birds. The ice-cube freeze method is a good one, will try that. I might be mistaken on the sunflower seeds… not touched but it did eat the much smaller roundish, mixed colored seeds. Will remove the sunflower seeds.
    I’m sure it’s a female blue crowned hanging parrot.. it sleeps like a bat every night.

  12. Lee Chiu San

    When feeding local birds which are unfamiliar with imported fruits such as grapes, it helps to split the fruits to expose the edible parts. As to your remark that the bird sleeps hanging upside down like a bat, yes, that is the way blue-crowned hanging parrots sleep.

  13. Geam Liang

    Thanks… I need to think like a bird – yup. She has probably not seen a grape much less know that it’s edible, unless the previous owner has fed her with grapes… even then… Today she’s done pretty well making the most of the banana and all of the papaya plus quite a bit of seeds. Will try the baby food + mashed rise + rose syrup.
    Will regular honey do instead of rose syrup?

  14. Lee Chiu San

    About making nectar to feed birds. Most aviculturalists do not use honey for two reasons: 1. It is expensive and does not seem to give any added benefits. 2. Honey is made by bees, and the composition varies wildly. Some honeys are also known to cause fungal infection in birds.

    If you do not want to buy a huge bottle of rose syrup just for one tiny bird, there are cheaper alternatives. The first is plain table sugar, though most don’t seem to like it very much.

    What many birds will accept quite readily as a sweetener is condensed milk – the type with sugar that coffee shop owners use.

    Many, many birds have a sweet tooth (or should I say sweet beak?) Besides the usual suspects of lories, lorikeets, sunbirds and hummingbirds, for whom it is an essential part of the diet, nectar mixture is readily consumed by mynahs, leafbirds, fairy bluebirds, barbets, doves, parrots of all kinds, and a whole host of other species.

  15. Geam Liang

    I tried the condensed mild, placed in in a small bottle cap.. only the ants showed interest. Am I supposed to dilute it? I didn’t =( I took you advice and refrained from honey. Have yet to find Rose Syrup from the shelves of TESCO… will try to mix the baby food + mashed rise + rose syrup/sugar syrup this week…

  16. David Thackray

    Can anyone help me identify a bird I saw in Singapore last week. Size of a smakll dove or thrush. Dark metallic back. Grey breast with red throat, chest.

  17. Emily Koh

    Lately I bought a bird feeder which I fill with 4parts water n 1 part white sugar. Sunbirds come regularly to drink and they are really lovely to watch. May I know if it is bad for them to feed on this? Previously they would sometimes pierce and drink from my potted flowers

  18. Emily Koh

    Lately I bought a bird feeder which I fill with 4parts water n 1 part white sugar. Sunbirds come regularly to drink and they are really lovely to watch. May I know if it is bad for them to feed on this? Previously they would sometimes pierce and drink from my potted flowers.

  19. Mahadevi Bhuti

    One of best souce for the bird watcher’s enjoying knowledge about ornithology

  20. Martin Nyffeler (PhD)

    Dear Sir / Dear Madame,

    I am a Senior Lecturer in Zoology at a University in Switzerland and I urgently need to get in touch with photographer Chan Yoke Meng, who takes beautiful photographs of birds near Singapore. Would you please mail me the email address of this photographer!


  21. Wee Ming

    Hello Besgroup,

    Trust this email finds you well. We chance upon your photograph on your website and found the amazing image of the Laced Woodpecker and durians. We would like to explore the possibility of getting permission to use them for a new Bird Park in Singapore.

    Spacelogic is a company based in Singapore and we have been contracted by Mandai Park Development to carry out design and build works relating to the exhibition interpretive displays in this new Bird Park.

    Some background of the new Mandai Bird Park project; it will build upon the legacy of the Jurong Bird Park – by retaining and building upon a world-reference bird collection and creating a place of colour and joy for all visitors. The new Bird Park will have a world-reference ornithological collection displayed in a highly immersive way with large walk-through habitats. To enhance visitors’ experience with storyline and narrative of the bird park, transition spaces are added to display exhibits that provide a varied type of fun, intuitive, interactive and educational experiences for all visitors. One of the habitats features the Laced Woodpecker on a flora panel It is in this flora panel that we are seeking your permission to feature the Laced Woodpecker. We are looking to use the first image on the link here.
    Link can be found here:

    We would like to ask if this is something that we can explore further and if yes, how can we go about with putting through a formal permission request. Thank you so much for considering our request and we look forward to hearing from you.

    Warmest Regards,
    Wee Ming
    SPACElogic Pte Ltd

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